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Center for Action and Contemplation
Immortal Diamond
Immortal Diamond

True Self / Separate Self: The Fifth Theme of Alternative Orthodoxy

Sunday, August 6, 2023

This week the Daily Meditations focus on the fifth of CAC’s Seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy: 

The “separate” self is the major problem, not the shadow self which only takes deeper forms of disguise. [1]  

Father Richard Rohr believes that growth in spirituality involves detaching from our separate or false self and living from our True Self. Richard explains: 

I learned the terms “True Self” and “false self” from Thomas Merton (1915–1968)—words he used to clarify what Jesus surely meant when he said that we must die to ourselves or we must “lose ourselves to find ourselves” (Mark 8:35). Merton rightly recognized that it was not the body self that had to “die” (which much of Christian history seemed to believe), but the “false self.” Our attachment to our small, separate, false self must die to allow our True Self—our basic and unchangeable identity in God—to live fully and freely. [2]  

Thomas Merton memorably describes his mystical experience of the True Self: 

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut [now Fourth and Muhammad Ali Boulevard], in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness.… The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream…. 

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.… I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift…. 

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.… It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. [3]  


[1] To learn more about CAC’s Seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy, visit this webpage.  

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 38–39. 

[3] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965, 1966), 140, 142.  

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Field Study 1 (detail), oil pastel on canvas. Taylor Wilson, Field of the Saints (detail), print. Taylor Wilson, Isha (detail), watercolor and cyanotype. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Artist Statement (Taylor Wilson): This collection is an exploration of the iconic visuals we are culturally familiar with.… Playing and replaying with what the ancients already knew and then taking the responsibility of sacred knowledge forward through modern expression with the Spirit. 

Story from Our Community:  

The Daily Meditation on “Gratitude is a Practice,” spoke to my own personal challenge of being grateful despite living with cancer. I say “living with” cancer because I have been living with it for 10 years. It’s been a strange dance. I’m grateful for so many moments that are full of love: visits from grandchildren, a beautiful sunset, or a wonderful meal. But then the fear returns and I find my gratitude wearing thin. Gratitude has become a physical as well as spiritual experience for me. A pain-free hour lightens my heart and a quiet thanks flows through my body. Last night, I read Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond which said, “the God within is looking at the God with out.” I found a profound sense of calm by the idea that I am always—no matter what—existing in the total presence of the Creator. —Patrick S. 

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